What Is An LEPC Anyway?

Perhaps you’ve heard mentions on the Town Crier of meetings of Local Emergency Planning Committees, and wondered what those are and what they do.

The Highland County LEPC is made up of representatives from various organizations and entities throughout the county, appointed by the Board of Supervisors. I spoke with Harley Gardner, the Emergency Services Coordinator for Highland County, who chairs the committee, to find out more about it.

“The LEPC, or Local Emergency Planning Committee, is part of SARA III, which is chemical and hazardous materials awareness and prevention. It was set up nationally – each jurisdiction is supposed to have a Local Emergency Planning Committee. Initially it was developed for facilities that had hazardous materials and things of that nature, and it has gotten into more local planning.”

He continued, “Our Local Emergency Planning Committee reviews our emergency operation plan. Matter of fact, we’ll be presenting that to the Board of Supervisors at the next meeting. Also, we plan and coordinate activities, Part of the Local Emergency Planning Committee’s responsibilities in our jurisdiction is to man the Emergency Operations Center should that become necessary. We have a communications committee that has radio contact if we would happen to lose all of our communications in the county, whether it be telephone, internet, or whatever, we’re still able to communicate with the outside world through our ham radio operators.”

“Also we plan and do local community assessment annually in reference to what some of our needs are, as far as training and having first responders up to speed and what they need to do. We participate in the National Incident Management System Program, which allows us to obtain grants through the federal government.

He explained a recent acquirement made possible by one of those grants.

“Well, there was a grant made available, and the Board of Supervisors graciously agreed to supplement the grant. A small percentage of it needs to be matched and the Board of Supervisors agreed to do that over several fiscal years. We obtained a generator with specifications supplied by Lightner’s Electrical – he helped us develop what we needed in order to serve the county the best.”

“Initially this grant was for upgrading public shelters, which our school complex is designated as our public shelter now – since we have a generator we’re able to use that facility.

”One of the things that we were able to do with this generator, it’s on a trailer. So it’s not just designated to be used at the high school –  if we need to use it in some other facility then we’re able to do so to supply power in emergency situation. And it is substantial enough to supply power to any of the facilities that the county has or oversees. Word of Faith has a connection for a generator; The Highland Center has its own generator and has also agreed to be a public shelter; as well as the Blue Grass Ruritan building and the Bolar Ruritans have opened their doors in the past as well.

“So those are some of the things that the Emergency Planning Committee coordinates to see what it is that we need and when we need it.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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